Monthly Archives: April 2013

City of Fallen Angels – Cassandra Clare

Book Description (Amazon): city of fallen angels

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her. His mother just found out that he’s a vampire and now he’s homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse that’s wrecking his life. And they’re willing to do anything to get what they want. Not to mention that he’s dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other one.

When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

My Review:

Executive Summary: Finally!

This was the first of the books that I could honestly say I really enjoyed. The plot line was a lot more complex (in a good way), and everyone was pretty involved in the action.

We begin the story with Simon double-dating Maia and Isabelle. (Simon has quickly become one of my favorite characters in the book because he’s awkward and weird and I relate to that. Lol.) He is summoned by Camille, the head vampire of the Manhattan clan (who is supposedly in hiding because she was banned by Raphael for feeding on humans). Camille tells him that she wants him to join her to help her regain her status, and in turn she will help him with his learning (apparently there is a lot that vampires need to know). She gives him 5 days to make a decision.

In the meantime, his band acquires a new member, Kyle. Simon and his mother get into a fight because she finds his blood stash and he tells her he’s a vampire, and he stays with Kyle.

Throughout all this, Jace has been having dreams of murdering Clary so instead of, you know, talking to someone, he just ignores her and makes a situation way worse. I get it, they’re teenagers. It still annoys me. And separately, Simon is being stalked by people who are trying to attack/kidnap him but because of his Mark of Cain, none of them succeed. Jordan and Jace form a plan to lure them out at their band’s show.

After their performance, because Simon hasn’t been feeding properly, he “accidentally” feeds on this groupie, Maureen. Kyle turns out to be Jordan (there are a lot of name changes in this series!), who is the werewolf who turned Maia. After he became a werewolf, Jordan joined the Praetor Lupus, a group to help newly formed downworlders, and as such, he helps straighten out Simon’s situation. Simon also meets a promoter who is interested in their band. Mmm-hmm. Simon tells Luke about his situation with Camille and the people following him.

Jace and Clary are practicing their fighting when the always creepy Seelie queen appears. She tells them about another dead Nephilium and also gives Clary some more mysterious tidbits of “wisdom” to think about. Later that evening, they find out that a baby was abandoned behind the Beth Israel hospital with a note asking the hospital to euthanize the baby.

They soon realize that the Nephilium who have been murdered were all part of the Circle previously. They agree that it is acceptable to have Clary try her rune making skills on the most recently murdered one to figure out who has killed them and it turns out it is Camille. Luke splashes acid on the rune to destroy it and let the Shadowhunter die. Turns out bringing people back from the dead is apparently inhumane and gross. Go figure.

Luke calls Simon and sets up a clandestine meeting to talk about Camille. Clary and Jocelyn go to see the now-dead baby at Beth Israel hospital. The baby has been glamoured so that on first glance, you can’t see that it has claws and black eyes…like Jonathan/Sebastian apparently had when he was a child. Clary uses a scrap of fabric from the baby to figure out where he had come from and got the address of the Church of Talto at 232 Riverside Drive. She texts Isabelle the address too.

Simultaneously while Simon, Jace, and Jordan are discussing the whole Maureen catastrophe, a note is left at their door saying that Simon needs to go to 232 Riverside Drive or they will cut his girlfriend’s throat. So Simon begins calling all the possible girls who might be his girlfriend. Maia. Isabelle. Clary. No one has been kidnapped.

Clary gets inside the church and it’s (surprise) creepy. She sees a picture of a woman holding a baby with black eyes and deduces that someone is trying to make more children like Jonathan. She is then attacked by a demon. Luckily Isabelle is prompt in her timing and helps kill it. Clary really needs more training.

Simon meets Camille to give her his answer and then “sneakily” takes a photo of the location to allow the Nephilium to create a Portal there and capture her. She agrees to talk but only to Magnus Bane. Turns out many years ago Magnus was her lover which of course creates all sort of drama with Magnus and Alec. Hmph, mortals. So emotional. 🙂

Once Jace realizes what has happened to Clary, he has to go help her. (Um where was your help when she was being attacked by a demon, doofus). They start making out and then Jace pulls a knife on her. (So we move from incest to assault…?) They realize that someone has been messing with Jace’s dreams so they decide to take him to the Silent City to get help. They find out that Jace has the mark of death on him (aka he died and then Clary asked the Angel to bring him back so she has set the world in some sort of imbalance. Also the reason he is able to be mind controlled is because he wasn’t “reset” after he was reborn so it was easy for someone to break into his mind. A little far fetched but ok, I’ll take it.). Clary leaves him to be fixed, but the Silent Brothers don’t get started in time as Jace has a horrible dream and leaves the Institute.

Simon figures out who the girlfriend is. Maureen.

Everyone goes to Jocelyn and Luke’s engagement party. The Seelie Queen sends Clary a bell which can be used to summon the Queen at any time. Clary sees Jace and only mildly questions why he’s there and not at the Institute. She stupidly agrees to let Jace give her a permanent rune “like they have at Shadowhunter weddings.” (I’m assuming that’s like getting your gf/bf’s name tattooed on you…a guarantee that it’s going to go sour). Only it turns out it’s not a sappy love rune.

Simon meets Maureen who takes her to meet her creator who was the promoter earlier in the story. Her name is Lilith and she has been around since the beginning of creation. Apparently she was Adam’s first wife but she wasn’t obedient so God made Adam a new wife out of his own body so that she would always be subservient. (This part struck me as a little over the top. I’m not sure whether we are supposed to feel for Lilith or not?) Simon realizes that Lilith has Jonathan/Sebastian in a weird coffin and begins to get a bit suspicious.

Isabelle realizes that Simon is gone (but not Clary) and everyone sets about to go look for him. Isabelle finds the card in Simon’s wallet for the promoter “Satrina Kendall” and oh so quickly puts together that Satrina is Lilith. Apparently Lilith has many names and one of them is also Talto (the church where they were earlier) so they decide to start looking for Simon there. Alec finds Camille there who has apparently been captured by Lilith (who she was working for all along), and Alec stupidly agrees to release her.

Jonathan is alive because of Clary’s imbalance. A life for a life or something. Lilith wants Simon to turn Jonathan into a vampire so that he can be brought back to life (although Simon would die for it) and create a new race of demon-vampire-Shadowhunters (I think). Only Simon’s blood will work because of his “daylighter” status because the Angel blood is what can bring the dead back (Not much detail about the downsides of this…). Then Jace shows up with Clary and we find out who has been controlling his dreams this whole time. Lilith was the greater demon who had been used to create Jonathan in the first place and considers herself Jonathan’s mother.

Simon agrees to drink Jonathan’s blood and try to revive him in order to save Jace and Clary. Meanwhile Clary cuts the rune that Jace has applied to himself under the will of Lilith to remove its power. Lilith releases hellhounds to attack them which they manage to hold off. Lilith is about to attack Clary when Simon with his Mark of Cain jumps in the way. And then Lilith is attacked 7x  and dies.

The rest of the group finds them and everyone gets updated on the situation. Jace decides to wait alone with Jonathan to ensure nothing happens while the rest of the Clave gets there. Clary and Jace have a heartfelt reunion (now that Jace isn’t trying to kill her) before Clary goes downstairs.  And then…when Jace is left alone with Jonathan, he begins being controlled again. This time by Jonathan. He cuts his hand and and Jonathan’s and they share blood. The book ends with Jonathan saying “We are one.”

Um…OK. I was good up until the very end. So Clary removed the rune which allowed Lilith to control Jace. But then after Lilith died, it spontaneously came back to allow Jonathan to control Jace? I realize that this is a YA book and I’m willing to suspend a lot of my disbelief on things. But the explanation of “Lilith’s blood in Jonathan’s veins” doesn’t really cut it. Lilith was no longer able to control Jace so why can Jonathan? It doesn’t really make a lot of sense. But OK, I’m curious to see where it goes, so I’ll hold off on my rant. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the more detailed, intertwined story line with all the different groups of characters.

Verdict:

3.5 stars. I liked this one slightly better than the last one (which I also gave 3.5 stars) but the ending bit was a little…difficult for me to buy into. I’m going to pick up book 5 to read while I’m waiting in line at the DMV today so hopefully the explanation in there will be more satisfying. And also we are left with the unanswered plot line of the Seelie Queen’s bell. And somewhat Simon’s ability to bring people back from the dead. It could be really good…

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Houston Public Library Website Review

So Houston has two different library systems–the Houston Public Library and the Harris County Public Library. They are not related. They do not share books between them. They are two completely separate entities. It’s a little confusing, but I’m sure it comes down to $ (doesn’t it always?). I tend to use the Houston library a bit more, just because it’s a bit more convenient for me. There is a branch across from my neighborhood grocery store (just over a mile from my house), and there is another about 3 miles from my work.

The library is high tech enough that it has a website (http://www.houstonlibrary.org) , and in general, a pretty good user-friendly one at that. You can request a book (or dvd, audiobook, etc.) and have it delivered to any library in the system for pick up. I usually pick up from the library in my neighborhood which has fairly decent hours. Most nights until 6 (so if I don’t fool around after work, I can make it), one night until 8, and it’s also open on Saturday. You can drop off your books at any library in the system which can sometimes be useful when you’re running errands. And speaking of high tech, there’s also a library app but I’ll cover that in another post.

Library 1a

However, because I’m kind of a critical person, there are a few problems I have with the website. The very first thing is that when you click “Log In”, it opens a new window. I realize that is a minor annoyance, but it just irks me. And possibly if that were the only issue I had, I wouldn’t even tell you about it. But it isn’t. When logging in, you don’t get a user name and password like most sites. You enter your last name and your library card number to log in. Your library card is a string of 14 digits. Random (as far as I can tell) digits. The average length of a string of numbers that a person can remember is 7 +/- 2 (thus why things like SSN and phone numbers tend to be in that range). And if you are lazy like me, you don’t want to dig through your bag to find your wallet that has your “non-essential” cards in it every time you want to use the library website, you have to memorize that 14 digit number. Eventually my brain will be overloaded with uselessness and just shut down. Yes, that’s my actual library card number’s length in the picture. Let that sink in.

Library 2

However, the real issue that I have with the library website is the search. And I have provided pictorial demonstration of the problems. When you log in, there is a very obvious place to search for items. There is a pull-down menu to help narrow down your search slightly (who searches by “call number browse” because I certainly don’t) and then a box to write out what you are searching. For my example, I have used a book that I had a hell of a time finding at the library, The Sun Also Rises.

Library 3a

So I searched by word, used quotation marks, and got 29 results that are sorted by date. WHAT? Sorted by WHAT? As far as I can tell, there isn’t another way to sort them. I want them to be sorted by relevancy or in this case maybe sorted by date with oldest first (as a lot of the results were other people’s books talking about the original book). In any way, the actual physical book that I was wanting was number 29. (#9 was an audio book version).

So after you search the first time, you can modify your search. I tried that:

Library 4

OK! We can finally sort by relevance! That should mean that the book version of The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway should be #1 in the list, right? Negatory. It’s number 9. Yeah, the original actual book is #9 in the list. I don’t even get it. And on top of that, there are lots of sneaky books mixed into the list that appear to be the original book, but when you click on the details, they are actually abridged by someone, or critical essays about the book or any number of things that are NOT THE ACTUAL BOOK. How can the original book be #9 in relevance?

Ok, so then I went back to modify my search again. (Granted, I found the book that I wanted in each of my searches but I wanted to see if there was a way to actually get the book that I wanted in at least the top 5 books in the list (if not the number 1 book) as I have accidentally requested the wrong book on more than one occasion!)  So this time, I click on the “Keyword + Encore” link and search through Encore. (According to the info, Encore is “a new and fun way of finding library information…” which I find a little overly enthusiastic.) So I search “The Sun also Rises” and it is the first one in the list!!! Maybe Encore IS fun. 😉

Library 5

So in general, the library website is decent. The process of ordering, picking up, and returning the books is pretty great. The process of finding the book to order in the first place could certainly be easier. And more efficient. But at the end of the day, I’m going to continue to use it because it’s cheap and convenient and a great way to read books I’m unsure if I will like.

I’d love to hear about your library experiences, good or bad!

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City of Glass – Cassandra Clare

Book Description (Amazon):image(1)

To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters—never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City—whatever the cost?

Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the third installment of bestselling series the Mortal Instruments.

My Review:

Executive Summary: series is getting better

The book begins with Clary excited to go to Idris (the land of the Nephilium) despite knowing that Jace does not want her to go (Jace is a little controlling, isn’t he).  Simon leaves her to secretly meet with Jace where he finds that Jace is lying to Clary about their departure time so that she will not be able to go in the portal that Magnus is creating for them. The group gets attacked by demons (and Madeleine dies) and to escape, Jace takes Simon with them to Idris (which is not allowed and obviously leads to problems).

Clary and Luke arrive at the Institute and find Magnus who explains what happens. Clary realizes that she was given incorrect information by Jace and is furious. So she draws a portal of her own and transports through it. Luke goes with her which is a good thing because she ends up falling into Lake Lyn and losing her stele.  Lake Lyn is the legendary lake where the angel Raziel rose from and gave Jonathan Shadowhunter the Mortal Instruments making him the first of the Nephilium. It also causes hallucinations  driving them to madness. Luke rescues her from the water and takes her to his sister Amatis’s house to help cure the hallucinations (and also because technically Luke isn’t allowed in Alicante).

Meanwhile Simon meets the rest of the Lightwoods as well as Aline Penhallow and her cousin Sebastian Verlac. Alec (the only one over 18) is allowed to participate in The Gard, the official meeting of the Clave. The Gard decides to send Simon back to New York and Alec escorts him to the Consul Malachi (the adviser to the inquisitor) and to meet Inquisitor Aldertree (worse than the previous inquisitor). Alec leaves believing that Simon will be portaled back to New York and everything will be A-OK. (such an optimist.) The Inquisitor proceeds to grill Simon about how he became a vampire and finding his answers insufficient, throws him in jail.

Amatis gives Clary some of her old clothes to wear, and Clary finds Amatis’s old shadowhunter outfit which she puts on and then sneaks out to go find Jace. She finds him undressing Aline. Aside from that drama, there’s also drama about Clary creating an unauthorized Portal and sneaking into Idris. Blahblahblah. Once Jace pisses off Clary and she leaves, Alec tells the others that Simon is actually in prison and didn’t go back to New York after all. As Clary is finding her way back to Amatis’s, she “runs into” Sebastian. He walks her home where she stupidly tells him that she is in Idris to find the warlock named Ragnor Fell who will save her mother.

Simon is summoned again for Aldertree where he finds out that Aldertree (and possibly the Clave) want to blame the Lightwoods (and Simon) for being in league with Valentine. Simon gets returned to jail where he meets the man in the cell beside him, Samuel, who is a Nephilium who is in jail for being in cahoots with Valentine.  Jace visits Simon and plans to break him out of jail. Simon disagrees because he doesn’t want to put everyone in danger with Aldertree, and Jace agrees to bring him fresh blood regularly.

Clary awakes to Sebastian throwing pebbles at her window. He tells her that he knows where Ragnor Fell lives. He takes her there on his horse. When they arrive, they find Magnus. Magnus freezes Sebastian and tells Clary that Fell sent him a message to meet him but when Magnus arrived, Ragnor was dead. Before Ragnor was attacked by demons, he sent a message to Magnus letting him know that the Book of the White (which has the spell to wake Jocelyn) was hidden at the Wayland Manor in a copy of Simple Recipes for Housewives. Magnus exchanges the information for the copy of the book and unfreezes Sebastian. Sebastian kisses Clary (who doesn’t at this point), has a dramatic outburst, and then tells her that Simon is in Idris and Jace knows about it but didn’t tell her.

She returns to Amatis’s and Jace is there. They fight over Simon, and eventually convinces Jace to take her to the Wayland manor via a portal she creates. There they find the Book of the White as well as a cellar where they find years worth of Valentine’s “experiments” with angels. One angel, Ithuriel, is still (barely) alive and shows Clary a vision of Valentine and her mother in younger years and finds out that Jonathan is a monster and was experimented on as a baby with demon blood. Clary reverses the runes so Ithuriel can leave, but he kills himself with Jace’s stele. The manor having been tied to the angel collapses and they just escape. Because the stele was lost, they walk back to Amatis’s. Just as they are nearing Alicante, they realize that something is very wrong.

Meanwhile at the Penhallows, Max claims he has seen someone climbing the demon tower but is quickly dismissed. Then Aline gets attacked by a demon. This means that something has happened to the demon towers! Alec leaves to go to the Gard, leaving Isabelle and Max with weirdo Sebastian…who hits Isabelle over the head with a hammer knocking her unconscious.

Luke and Magnus plead with the Consul to let the downworlders help with the massive demon war going on but Malachi has no interest. Clary gives Magnus the book that she retrieved from the Wayland’s. Sebastian witnesses this and is irate that she would give this spell book to a downworlder. He also lies to Jace and Alec that Isabelle and Max are on their way.  Clary and Jace go to break Simon out of jail. They end up breaking out Samuel too who turns out to be Hodge! Hodge tells them that he thinks that he has figured out where the Mortal Glass (the last of the mortal instruments that Valentine is looking for) is. The mirror is Lake Lyn. As he tells this, he is killed by Sebastian for being a “traitor”.  Sebastian says some intentionally provocative things and gets into a fight with them but he has incredible strength and speed, injuring them and then escaping. Clary, Simon, Alec and Jace return to the hall and find out that Max is dead. 😦

It turns out that Sebastian Verlac is a fake. The real Sebastian was thought to have been killed by the fake one. Valentine appears as a projection in the Hall of the Gard. He came to try to sway the other Nephilium to his side, but no one goes. He somehow (completely unexplained) kills Aldertree despite being a projection. Jace figures out how to track down fake Sebastian using a tracking spell from some blood he left on Clary’s clothes. He leaves on his own thinking it’s his mission in life for being a demon blood experiment. Clary awakes and realizes this and goes to tell Isabelle. As she is doing this, her mother appears!

Clary lashes out at her mother for withholding her entire background (the Nephilium, her father and brother, etc.) from her (kind of understandable reaction honestly). She goes to the roof (apparently her thing) where Simon finds her. They discuss how Jace’s blood is the likely reason for Simon’s “daylighter” condition, and they see that the Clave has decided to reject the help of the Downworlders and turn themselves over to Valentine. *eyeroll* They race to the hall where Clary shows off her rune-making skills and pleads to reconsider. She offers a rune that will bind one Nephilium to one Downworlder to allow them to share their powers making them both stronger. The adults decide to consider it.

Jocelyn comes out to talk to Clary during the meeting and tells her how Valentine infused Jonathan with demon blood in utero and how he was such an evil baby, she couldn’t stand it. Because of Jocelyn’s assumed post-partum depression, Valentine gave her injections of angel blood to improve her mood (and she was pregnant with Clary at the time). Therefore the dichotomy of one child being part demon and one being part angel. She also tells Clary that Valentine was trying a mixture on Stephen’s baby as well…and reveals that Jace is not Jonathan. Jonathan is actually Sebastian, and Jace is actually Stephen’s son who was also experimented on with angel’s blood.  (Surprise!! Jace and Clary aren’t related! Phew! That incest thing was getting a little gross!)

The Gard decides to side with Clary and she teaches them how to do the rune and downworlders and Nephilium start pairing off. Alec and Magnus pair off and start kissing in public (hubba hubba). Raphael’s projection offers the support of the vampires if they give him Simon. Jocelyn refuses. Simon, feeling bad that the help of the vampires isn’t providing help because of him, asks Clary to promise him something and goes off to find Raphael. Raphael goes to kill him because he is “unnatural”, but he finds out that Simon has the Mark of Cain on him, which means any punishment done to him will be done to the doer 7x. Because the promise to Luke was made in good faith, Raphael agrees to help fight.

Jace finds Sebastian who is with Valentine and is confused why Valentine keeps calling him Jonathan. We find out that Malachi is the informant who lets Valentine know that Clary has a plan for the Nephilium. Valentine leaves and Sebastian/Jonathan tells Jace to come out. They have a huge epic battle where they find that they are both Valentine’s sons (in that they were both raised by him). It takes Jace forever to figure it out but he finally realizes that Jonathan is the one with the demon blood and he instead has angel blood (and isn’t related to Clary!). Suddenly Isabelle appears and severs Jonathan’s hand. Apparently she also tracked “Sebastian” and arrived just in time to distract him so Jace can live. Jace stabs Jonathan in the back in the spot where you can “pierce his heart and sever his spine.”

The battle with the demons and the Nephilium/Downworlder pairs is happening and Clary (who isn’t allowed to fight) overhears Malachi communicating with Valentine. Valentine’s raven attacks and kills Malachi after he threatens Clary (who is after all Valentine’s daughter). She follows Valentine through the portal to Lake Lyn. Valentine is about to cut (kill?) Clary with the Mortal Sword when suddenly Jace appears (convenient!). Jace tries to kill Valentine but he evades the sword and uses it to kill Jace. He summons the angel Raziel and as he’s distracted, Clary changes the runes he has drawn, so that when he granted his one wish, it goes to Clary, who uses it to save Jace. And Raziel kills Valentine just because he can.

The book ends with Jace and Clary getting together, Jocelyn and Luke getting together, Simon being the ladies’ man courting Maia and Isabelle and Magnus and Alec being happy. In the end, everyone has the warm fuzzies…except Jonathan’s body was never found…(dunh dunh dunhhhh)

Verdict:

3.5 stars. I liked this one a lot better than the others. The story was had a lot more depth than the previous ones along with having more details about how everything “works”. (I think I really need that info of how stuff works in books. Otherwise it’s hard for me to believe the story. I’m an engineer; what can I say?) Of course it still had a lot of convenient situations (people appearing at just the right time) but at the end of the day, it’s a young adult novel and you have to take it as it is.

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

Book Description (Amazon):ELIC

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

My Review:

Executive Summary: Blech.

I did not like this book, and I was disappointed by that. It gets great reviews. It’s supposed to be so “uplifting”. I couldn’t stand it.

On a side note, I borrowed this book as an e-book from the Houston Public Library. It was my first time trying that out and I intend to do a post about it at a later date. There were +’s and -‘s.

The general story of the book is that 9 year old Oskar Schnell’s father dies in the World Trade Center disaster. He and his mother are going to therapy trying to figure out how to continue with their lives. Oskar also has a kind but somewhat odd and overbearing grandmother who lives across the street with “the renter”. He also comes from an apparently rich family as he has a doorman.

One day Oskar is rummaging around in his parents’ closet and he finds this vase which he breaks and finds a key inside it. The key is in an envelope which says “Black” on it (in red letters). After talking to some “experts”, he determines that it must belong to someone with the last name of Black. He tracks down every Black in the phone book and goes to visit them on his attempt to figure out this mystery.

He eventually figures out that the key belongs to one of the first Blacks that he met but by that point, he has some emotional resolve (I guess?) and doesn’t care what the key opens.

A side story is going on simultaneously about Oskar’s grandmother (who doesn’t have a name) and grandfather (who has never been in the picture). Oskar’s grandfather, Thomas,  initially was in love with Oskar’s grandmother’s sister Anna, in Germany. Anna died in the attack on their town, Dresden, during WW2. Someone Oskar’s grandma reconnected with Thomas in America many years later and he cannot talk any more. They get married and she gets pregnant despite his wishes and he leaves. He returns to find his son and ends up reconnecting with Grandma and becoming the renter.

There were so many annoying things about this book. There were photographs, chapters written in fake marked up drafts, unexplained “inside stories” like heavy boots and nothing spaces, a lack of knowing who was narrating from chapter to chapter. It was frustrating to read. It reminded me of reading Under the Volcano (whose weird writing style at least served a purpose).

They never specifically mentioned that Oskar was autistic, but I think that is what the author was alluding to (there is an emotions book at some point). Oskar is supposed to be 9. Which is HILARIOUS. A) what mother lets a 9 year old wander about New York City talking to strangers about some mysterious key. B) Granted I don’t know a lot of 9 year olds, but it was unrealistic that any act that way. He fluctuated between a weird 5 year old (asking strangers if they could kiss) and a 40 year old (his overwhelming collection of facts which I cannot imagine any child at that age could have collected.)

The story with the grandfather seemed contrived in a way to equate somehow WW2 horrors with modern day terrorism horrors. The grandfather in no way seemed like a believable person for a multitude of reasons (including the fact that he didn’t talk, had been missing for 30+ years with no explanation, etc.) and it just turned a possibly valid connection of tragedy into something unrealistic and almost absurd.

The only part of the book that I kind of enjoyed was the visit to all of the Blacks. I think there is just something about that as an idea which strikes me as so interesting and curious. I just genuinely enjoy listening to people’s stories because no two people have the same one. And I just find it fascinating. If I could get away with what Oskar did, I totally would. I would just be considered a creep.  And, it was pretty great that all of the Blacks came to see Oskar in his play.

Verdict:

2 Stars. Honestly I think this is one of those books that people either love or hate. I’m definitely in the latter. I just think that it just is a book that tries too hard to be weird and edgy and have this great revelation connecting a family through multiple tragedies. I found the characters to be too unrealistic, and honestly if I hadn’t been on an airplane with no other books, I probably would have “shelfed” it before the end.

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City of Ashes – Cassandra Clare

imageBook Description (Amazon):

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go—especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil—and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings—and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

My Review:

Executive summary: fun (and better than book 1).

So last week I was on my honeymoon (!!!) and I read this book and the next book. I debated doing one review for both, but in the end decided it was better to have them separated for posterity’s sake (or something like that).

So we left the previous book with Valentine disappearing through a portal and Jace being depressed. This book begins with a prologue in which Valentine uses a young warlock to summon a greater demon who then kills the young warlock and is bound to do Valentine’s bidding.

The Lightwood parents (Maryse and Robert) return with their youngest son, Max to parent Isabelle and Alec (sort of). Despite Jace being their adopted son, there is a lot of tension between Maryse and Jace when they return.

Clary and Simon are trying to regain something of a normal friendship, but when she switches the TV channel to Dracula, Simon leaves the room abruptly. (MOST OBVIOUS FORESHADOWING EVER).

Jace and Maryse finally discuss why there is tension. Maryse does not believe Jace that he never knew he was Valentine’s son. She believes that Jace is doing Valentine’s bidding from afar as a spy, and this is exacerbated when he can’t claim that he hates Valentine.

Clary tries to figure out what’s up with Simon who asks her if he seems different and then kisses her (so much for that friendship thing). Then Clary gets a call from Isabelle telling her that Jace is missing.

We meet Maia, a werewolf with a history of evil men in her past (brother, ex boyfriends) who is part of Luke’s pack. She is in the bar when Jace comes in to cause a scene and is rescued by Luke. Clary and Luke find out that Jace has been kicked out (or left because he is an angsty teen) by the Lightwoods and decide to all go and find out what is going on. They return to the institute and find Maryse speaking with Raphael (vampire from Book 1) about the murdered warlock who was drained of blood. Jace decides to stay at the Institute and wait for the Inquisitor to question him.

The inquisitor, who reminded me a lot of Professor Umbridge (aka unyielding and annoying) doesn’t believe anything Jace says and eventually throws him into the prison in the Silent City for further questioning.

Clary, Simon, and Maia all meet. Maia seemingly has an interest in Simon who is still fumbling along with Clary. Maia helps Luke with his bookstore and is growing into a more important character.

While Jace is in the Silent City, it becomes unsilent, as all the Silent Brothers are killed; Brother Bartholomew (Book 1) is killed just in front of Jace’s cell. Valentine small talks with Jace before he leaves the Silent City taking the Angel’s sword and leaving Jace chained in the cell.

Clary leaves Simon to go to the Institute in response to a text from Isabelle telling her that Jace is in jail. Clary, Alec and Isabelle decide it’s a great idea to break Jace out of jail under the guise of responding to a distress call from the Silent City. And possibly important, Clary got some marks before the upcoming battle. When they find Jace, Clary does some sort of “magic” (technically they aren’t wizards) to essentially blow apart the cell. When they return, everyone’s disbelief of Jace’s loyalty deepens and Jace is under Magnus’s guard.

Clary dreams of her mother. In the dream, Jocelyn gives her a mark on her arm which remains  when she awakes (this is never explained). She and Simon go to visit Magnus. The group (Simon, Clary, Magnus, Alec,  and Jace) discuss the murders (and bloodletting) of the warlock, the werewolf and the faerie. They determine that Valentine is using the blood of one of each of a downworlder child (werewolf, warlock, faerie, vampire) to change the sword into an evil sword, which would allow him to call demons forward to do his bidding.

Isabelle (over the phone) tells the group that the Faerie Queen requests their presence. With some dissent, they go and tell her what they have figured out about Valentine’s plan. She alludes to the fact that Clary and Jace are Valentine’s experiments and tells Jace to ask Valentine what blood runs through his (Jace’s) veins. Clary accidentally consumes some liquid and is therefore not allowed to leave (Faerie rules apparently) but the queen allows it if Jace kisses her (the kiss that will free the girl is the kiss that she most desires). **So this is where I’m starting to think that Clary and Jace are not actually related. Because this is kind of a lot of weird incest for a young adult novel…

Simon gets pissed about the sensuous kiss and disappears.

The doorbell at the institute rings at 3AM. Clary “knows” it is Simon and she, Isabelle and Jace go to investigate. They find Simon but they also find Raphael. Simon had broken into the vampire hotel, thinking he was becoming a vampire (from his time as a rat in Book 1). Because he broke into the hotel, he was fair game and now was fully in the process of becoming a vampire. They bury him (in a Jewish cemetery) and he rebirths as a vampire.

Demons attack Maia and Luke and Magnus is called to help heal them (and relationship drama surfaces between Bane & Alec). Raphael appears with a secret demon motorcycle for Jace who disappears somewhere in the night. He appears on Valentine’s ship (he coerced the location from the demon who attacked Luke) where he is held by the guards. Valentine offers his protection to all Jace’s friends if Jace joins him on the dark side. Jace says no.

It turns out Clary can draw new runes (a very unusual feat as all others come from “The Gray Book”) and she draws one to be Fearless. (Still unclear how the rune from the dream came to be though.) She marks Alec as a test and he starts telling his parents (who just appeared along with the Inquisitor) about his relationship with Magnus (until Magnus works some magic on him and shuts him up). So the test was a success.

The Inquisitor goes crazy on basically everyone. She had marked Jace with a tracing rune and knew that he had gone to Valentine. In her anger, she gives up that she had a son Stephen and you are led to believe something bad happened to him that is somehow connected to her insane behavior. She locks Jace’s hands and keeps him in a 4 walled cell. Her plan is to bargain with Valentine in exchange for Jace’s life.

Maia and Simon are captured by Valentine (through the greater demon Agramon who was actually Maia’s evil brother Daniel). They are the two remaining of the 4 children who need sacrificed for Valentine’s sword’s transformation (the previous werewolf killing wasn’t fully completed).

Jace and his super-human capabilities allow him to jump out from the cage that the Inquisitor put him in. Clary and Luke go to Simon’s house to find that Valentine has indeed taken him. Jace, Luke, and Clary meet with Magnus to go to Valentine’s boat to rescue Simon and Maia while Alec and Isabelle try to go tell the Inquisitor what has happened. Clary marks Jace with her “fearless” rune. They learn that the Inquisitor had a son, Stephen, who became Valentine’s right-hand-man after Luke became a werewolf. Stephen was killed while in the Circle.

An epic battle of Nephilium vs. demons occurs on Valentine’s ship (after he obviously rejects the Inquisitor’s deal). Clary finds and releases Maia who tells her that Simon is dead. Clary is captured by Valentine who re-emphasizes to Clary the weird incest situation she has with Jace. (Ok, ok, we get it). The other shadowhunters appear to help with the battle and the Inquisitor asks Jace about his star shaped scar and then she sacrifices her life for him as he is about to be attacked.

Jace kills Agramon and then finds Simon who he believes is dead. It turns out that Simon is just mostly dead (love that movie) and Jace decides to revive Simon using his blood. Simon and Jace go to rescue Clary from Valentine. Jace gives Clary her mother’s stele which she uses in another new rune that she has created for “Open”. This rune then proceeds to tear open the boat that they are on (not very well thought out because she and her friends are also on the boat). Not surprisingly, Clary and all her friends end up OK. The sun begins to come up and everyone is rushing to figure out how to get Simon to safety. But in a twist, Simon is now fine during the daylight. (I wonder if it has to do with Jace’s blood… 😉 ) Jace is invited back into the Lightwood family.  Clary and Simon agree to be just friends. Clary and Jace agree to be brother and sister (lol).

Clary walks back to the hospital to see her mother. At the door to the hospital, she meets a woman named Madeleine. Madeleine tells Clary that she knows the secret of how to wake up Clary’s mother.

Verdict:

3.25 stars (Am I allowed to do 1/4 stars. I guess so. I make the rules!) I liked it better than the first one, but it was still lacking in some cohesiveness. There were a lot of “coincidences” that seemed convenient. BUT. I did finally start understanding the runes a little more. And a little more about the whole “world” of all the different downworlders. I appreciated that. Enough at least to read the 3rd book that I also packed for the honeymoon! 🙂

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Filed under 3 stars, Book Review